TPM News

Republican nominee Tom Emmer has now withdrawn almost all of his campaign's challenges of ballots in Minnesota's gubernatorial recount.

As the Star Tribune reports, Emmer had about 650 challenges remaining, going into today. By today's deadline of noon Central Time, his campaign had cut that down to a mere 131 challenges. The board will meet tomorrow to adjudicate the remaining challenges from Emmer, as well the challenges from Democratic nominee Mark Dayton.

This follows his campaign's actions over last weekend, when they withdrew over 2,500 challenges in heavily Democratic Hennepin County (Minneapolis), which the local officials at the counting tables had deemed to be frivolous.

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Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Wisconsin GOP and the latest entrant into the crowded field of Republicans seeking to replace Michael Steele as chair of the Republican National Committee, just snagged a big name endorsement, CNN's Peter Hamby reports. Henry Barbour, RNC member from Mississippi and nephew of the state's governor, sent an email to the 168 voting members of the committee praising Priebus' tenure as RNC general counsel, a job he resigned this weekend.

"Let's face it, that was a tough job and he did as well as reasonably can be expected," Barbour wrote of Priebus. "He was always fair-minded, candid and inclusive with members. I also believe Reince was one of the few people in the inner circle who talked straight with Chairman Steele when he disagreed with him."

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The conservative-controlled U.S. Commission on Civil Rights ousted the chairman of the agency's Vermont State Advisory Committee last week over an October column in which he wrote that the Republican gubernatorial candidate's "Pure Vermont" slogan "raises the specter of Hilter's Aryan Nation and the Khmer Rouge, where the purifying agent was genocide."

The commission voted not to reauthorize the reappointment of Curtiss Reed Jr. as chair of the Vermont SAC, though he had the unanimous support of the rest of the Vermont committee. In an interview with TPM on Tuesday, Reed said his remarks were not intended to imply that former gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie was a racist.

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It's been less than 24 hours since President Obama announced he'd reached agreement with Senate Republicans to temporarily extend all the Bush tax cuts, but already it's clear that it faces an uncertain future on Capitol Hill within the President's own party. Some Democrats criticized the plan in withering terms, and most Democrats refused to take an unequivocal position in favor of the plan.

Butt there were many other signs of uncertainty: Senate aides suggested that Republican members will have to provide the bulk of the votes for the plan; and one top Democratic aide worried that the President's hastily-announced press conference indicated that the plan "may be taking on too much water," and might sink.

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In the final question of today's press conference, President Obama was asked by Jonathan Weisman of the Wall Street Journal how he would respond to Democrats who think he's compromised too much in agreeing on a two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts -- even for the wealthiest Americans -- and that they have a hard time figuring out his core principles on what issues he would go to the mat for. Obama then responded forcefully, saying that the positions of such people on the left would result in getting nothing done, except having a "sanctimonious" pride in the purity of their own positions.

The president compared current complaints from progressives to sparring over health care reform, saying that "this is the public option debate all over again." Then, Obama said, while he was able to pass reform Democrats had fought for for a century, they instead viewed it as "weakness and compromise" that there was no public option. "Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done."

"This is a big, diverse country," Obama also said. "Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people."

"This country was founded on compromise. I couldn't go through the front door of this country's founding," he later added. "And you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn't have a Union."

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At his press conference just now, President Obama explained that he was compromising with the Republicans on a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for the highest incomes, in order to avert the expiration of all the tax cuts that would result in across-the-board tax increases at a tough time.

"Now if there was not collateral damage, if this was just a matter of my politics, or being able to persuade the American people to my side, then I would just stick to my guns," said Obama. "Because the fact of the matter is, the American people already agree with me. There are polls showing right now that the American people for the most part think it's a bad idea to provide tax cuts to the wealthy.

"But the issue is not me persuading the American people -- they're already there. The issue is, how do I persuade the Republicans in the Senate who are currently blocking that position? I have not been able to budge them. And I don't think there's any suggestion that anybody in this room thinks realistically that we can budge them right now. And in the meantime, there are a whole bunch of people being hurt, and the economy is being damaged."

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Throughout the 2008 campaign, President Obama repeatedly stated that he would not extend the Bush tax cuts for Americans making more than $250,000 a year. Now, in the wake of Obama's announcement of a deal with Republicans to extend those very tax cuts for another two years, he's taking some heat.

As Greg Sargent reports, a SurveyUSA poll of voters who contributed time or money to Obama's campaign found that a vast majority oppose extending tax cuts for the nation's top earners, even if it comes as part of a deal with Republicans. Eighty-three percent of the surveyed Obama backers said they were opposed -- 70% of them strongly -- to extending the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year, with 74% opposing a Republican compromise that would result in an extension of those cuts.

In addition, 51% of the respondents said they would be less likely to contribute to Obama's reelection campaign if he struck such a deal, while 57% said they would be less favorable toward Democrats who back the compromise.

The tax deal currently being mulled would extend the Bush tax cuts on all Americans, regardless of income, for two years in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, among other things. Congressional Democrats have hardly embraced the proposal, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saying this morning that a top bracket tax cut extension "is not appropriate," and that the compromise could still change.

The poll, commissioned by MoveOn, surveyed 1,132 voters in twenty states who donated to or campaigned for Obama in the 2008 presidential election. It was conducted December 6.

Gov.-elect Paul LePage (R-ME) on Monday tried to walk back his claim that if 35 states join a lawsuit against the federal government, the health care law "dies automatically."

It turns out it's not quite that simple. No such provision exists in the Constitution. So LePage's spokesman Dan Demeritt explained what he really meant to say.

As the Portland Press Herald reports

"His intent was to discuss the concept of broad-based political opposition, rather than a nonexistent statutory or constitutional trigger."

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Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who has become one of the most vocal critics of Wikileaks, said today that while Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is definitely guilty of crimes, the New York Times may also have broken the law by posting some of those diplomatic cables.

"To me, the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship," Lieberman said on Fox News today. "Whether they've committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department."

Lieberman acknowledged that the idea is "sensitive" because "it gets into the First Amendment."

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